Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

   Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson With: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Victor Rasuk, Luke Grimes, Marcia Gay Harden. Release date: February 13, 2015 R. 2 hr. 9 min.

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
With: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Victor Rasuk, Luke Grimes, Marcia Gay Harden.
Release date: February 13, 2015
R. 2 hr. 9 min.


I know, it’s awkward to hear some stranger discussing a film that is relatively purposed for those who are anticipating some softcore pornography. Let’s begin this review by admitting that this review is not going to be focused on the pampered down coition of E.L. James’ S&M fanfiction. More of the emotional symbolism and reflections it makes for the characters who find themselves at the mercy of a screenplay that merely begs for visual appeal and nothing else. 

I am not the first, and I most certainly won't be the last, to rage a venomous war of words upon this film. But my seething anger derives from the movie's complicated messages on an uncomplicated subject, not mention the disastrous theatre experience that included but was not limited to subtle moaning from fellow audience members, a “moist” atmosphere, and a film that seems to be suggesting the opposition to a woman’s independence within her sexuality. 

“Fifty Shades of Grey” was originally written to be just what its title suggests, taking the white and blackness of the stereotypical romance and confiding it to conflictions of sexuality and exploration. Before we go any further, please understand that this review will be centered around a tone of distaste, but I would like to offer one compliment to this so-called “romance.” This film may not have much to offer, but at least it mirrors that of its source material in a near word for word fashion in both its construction and how it can limit its characters to mere figments of their representations. The lines may become blurred with the film’s themes and messages, but the characters remain as the fan fictionalized figment of memorable characters. 

The parallel construct that I am referring too is that of how the film is formatted and how the original story is written. For those who have had the distinct honor of never catching a glimpse of these so-called novels, allow me to reiterate what many have already mentioned in how these novels are grammatically flawed. Run on sentences, missed punctuations, paragraph structure, you name it. These novels have struggled to overcome a barrier of basic storytelling which is being able to write a story understandably and coherently. That’s not to say that any other author is absent of such grammatical mistakes, but not in a way that is near to these novel’s continued struggle to format a simple story. 

The same kind of flaws that are found in writing can be found in the filmmaking. Choppy? Yup. Bland scenery? Yup. Continuously missed opportunities for successful storytelling? Yup. Anything else? Oh yeah, there are the snippets of so-called steam and sexual charged narrative that becomes aggressively uncomfortable when surrounded by strangers in a dark room. The film seems to have enough of a budget to look believable, but not near enough to be dubbed anything more than visually satisfactory. It feels like a straight to DVD at times, but sadly we don’t live in that fair of a world. 

The off-setting of unfamiliarity and the attempts at tinkering with the expectations of sexuality in the film becomes incredibly unsettling as if we are blurring the lines between what would be defined as pornography and what would be defined as sexually charged storytelling. The performances also struggle to maintain any coherence to them. Dakota Johnson is relegated to a constant whispering and making sexual expressions which, tragically, summarizes most of her character. Jamie is continually bringing back deja vu to Robert Pattinson's performances in the “Twilight” franchise. With his lack of enthusiasm and charisma, Dornan becomes nothing more than a model to look at and for some audience members that was good enough to see this film again and again, at least their trying though.

This isn’t to say that I am easily offended in the theatre, and if I were viewing this film alone, I wouldn’t have the same feelings of violation. But when surrounded by a group of older adults in a movie that is begging for us to feel discomfort instead of the emotional trials and tribulations that the screenplay is attempting to intertwine, I begin to get queazy and rash in how I define fellow audience members' taste. I don't say that in a pretentious tone either. We all have our guilty pleasures, but we have to admit when they are guilty of something, so to add a bit more seasoning to that recipe. Not only is this film focused more on its naughty endeavors than anything else, but then when it does decide to focus on the characters themselves, they feel indirectly confusing. The film attempts to suggest the refashioning of a beauty and the beast storyline in which Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) is the innocent yet adventurous girl who is trying to tame the wild, and at times, scary beast in that of Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). 

These hallowed shells of characters become increasingly convoluted due to a lack of judgment and realism gave to both of them. Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) will continuously jump into these scandalous ventures for Mr. Grey (Jamie Dornan) and receive nothing in return. The characters become their sexual roles in that of submissiveness and dominance. Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) gives into all of Mr.Grey’s (Jamie Dornan) demands, minus a few stipulations that would evoke severe risky scenery if brought to the silver screen, and Christian (Jamie Dornan) continues to treat her as a lower tier to him in both a private and public manner.

While narratively I can comprehend the meanings behind it all, what is attempting to be said by both the original author and the screenwriter? Are they suggesting that women belong in the role of submission, that emotional torment can only lead to mirroring actions, or are they daring to cross the line of ethicality and suggest that sexuality is something that should never be treated with respect or significance? I’m no man of the cloth, but to suggest that sexual endeavors lack importance is utterly ludicrous. I may be diving into deep to this film, but I have always held the opinion that there is no limit to the analytical study of any art. 

Yes, the performances are awful, and yes the technicality of the film is nothing worse than an equivalent representation of the literary impairment that serves as its blueprint. More importantly, though, the movie takes bold strides and bold moves that become near unsettling. I am not sure if they're purposeful or not. And due to the films overwhelming boredom, I probably won’t ever take the time to understand why the film makes those moments of expressionism and uses them to forgive a possibly visceral message towards both women and emotional abuse. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a bad film, but most bad movies are born out of a lack of commitment to a project, a lack of cooperation from a studio, or just a lack of effort placed into the filmmaking. I’m not saying all three of those scenarios didn’t take place, but I think there was something far worse taking place behind the camera than just those tools of cinematic injustice.